Army of Darkness
Review Date: October 9, 1999
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: December 12, 1999
MSRP $44.98 (OOP)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes | P&S Yes (Theatrical Cut)
is the third (and final?) film in The Evil Dead
series. Released in 1993 and considered to be a box office failure after being unable to produce a profit for Universal Studios, it is now getting the deluxe special edition treatment it deserves thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment.
The film begins with Ash (Bruce Campbell) being dragged to his death. We learn at the beginning of this film that Ash has been sucked into some sort of time portal after attempting to destroy the Necronomicon, or Book of the Dead. This time portal he is sucked into sends him back to mid-evil times. Upon falling out of the portal and into mid-evil times he is surrounded by a large number of armored men and is accused of being one of King Henry's men, the enemy. He is taken prisoner and dragged off to his death in "the pit".
Ash is taken to a small castle where he is knocked into a pit that houses a deadly deadite. Luckily for Ash the "Wise Man" of these people believes that he is the chosen one that is written of in the Necronomicon. It is written that the chosen one will fall from the sky and deliver them from the terrors of the deadites. The Wise Man throws down Ash's chainsaw, which Ash uses to decapitate the deadite.
Ash uses his "boomstick", also known as a 12 gauge double barrelled Remington shotgun (only $109.95 at S Mart), to gain some authority over the people that have tried to kill him. He makes a deal with the Wise Man to recover the Necronomicon book, which they need to fight the deadites, in return for Ash being returned to his own time. Recovering the book is simple: Ash only need to say three words when he picks up the Necronomicon book and then return it to the Wise Man. When it comes time to recite the words Ash doesn't exactly recall all the words and ends up unleashing the Army of Darkness upon the townspeople. Now it's up to Ash to lead these people people against the Army of Darkness
and protect the Necronomicon from falling into the wrong hands so he can get back to his own time.
The new "Director's Cut" of the film contains an additional 15 minutes of footage put back into the movie, and also the original apocalypse ending that was originally submitted to Universal. Universal felt that the movie was too long and that the ending was a downer, so they cut 15 minutes from the film and forced them to film a new ending, known as the "S Mart ending". I prefer the apocalypse ending myself. One, because that is what director Sam Raimi intended to be the ending, and also because it's something I'm sure we can all imagine Ash doing (watch the film if you don't know what I'm referring to).
The additional 15 minutes of footage included a small love scene between Ash and Sheila (a woman he falls in love with), an extended opening sequence that included a fight between Ash and Arthur (the person to accuse Ash of being one of King Henry's men), an extended windmill sequence, an extended battle sequence at the end, numerous other small shots that were originally cut out and of course, the original ending which was already mentioned.
I've always enjoyed Army of Darkness
, but it's definitely the weakest film in The Evil Dead
series. Part of the reason is for Universal cutting 15 minutes of the film, but even with those additional 15 minutes put back into the film it still doesn't live up to The Evil Dead
or Evil Dead 2
. Don't get me wrong, the 15 minutes definitely makes the movie more complete and much more enjoyable. It's just that AOD doesn't really live up to the horror movie status that the first two accomplished. Even with Evil Dead 2
being part comedy, it stilled contained plenty of gore and tense moments. AOD is more of a Fantasy/Adventure movie, which is fine on its own but it really shouldn't have been Evil Dead 3
. There were no "scary" moments during this movie and it contained very little gore. Still, you have to love Bruce's numerous one-liners throughout the film. My favorite probably being, "give me some sugar baby". During the commentary Bruce mentions about how some people have emailed him claiming to have used that line to pickup girls at bars. LOL...too funny.
The Director's Cut of Army of Darkness
is presented in widescreen in its original theatrical ratio of 1.66:1 and it is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The transfer on the Director's Cut is definitely the weakest of the two, and it's obvious why Anchor Bay couldn't get it THX certified (only the theatrical version is THX). A good portion of the additional 15 minutes of footage is lower quality than the rest of the film, and it shows. I noticed right away during the windmill scenes which scenes were non-theatrical. The image was darker, slightly grainy and the quality was poorer. Even during some of the theatrical footage it seemed that the transfer on this DVD was weaker than the theatrical DVD. The battle scenes were too bright and there was some sort of ghosting images on the black background during the battle scenes. During one of the final scenes where Ash kisses Sheila goodbye I noticed some very brief compression artifacts (again, this was theatrical footage). Now one thing to note is during the first half of the movie all of the theatrical footage was crisp and clear with colors being well balanced. It was only towards the end of the film that I was noticing some problems in the theatrical footage.
The theatrical cut of Army of Darkness
is presented in widescreen in its original theatrical ratio of 1.66:1 and it is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. It also contains the p&S presentation of the film. The theatrical cut is near perfect, but I did notice minor speckling appearing throughout the film. However, the colors were well balanced, the blacks were solid black during the night scenes with no ghosting images appearing and the overall quality was superb. It's easy to see why this one was THX certified and the Director's cut was not.
The Director's cut is contains Dolby 2.0 Surround sound. It was crisp and clear throughout the film. No direct complaints about the sound except that a Dolby Digital 5.1 track would've been nice. I assume some of the additional footage prevented this since the theatrical cut does have the 5.1 track.
The DD5.1 sound on the theatrical cut was superb. Rear speakers were actively being used throughout the film, and the overall surround mix was pleasing.
The supplements are where this DVD really shines. Anchor Bay really packed a lot onto theses discs and I'd have to say they're worth owning for the supplements along. The Director's cut DVD contains 15 mins of additional footage restored into the film, 4 never-before-seen deleted scenes, and an audio commentary with Director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and Co-writer Ivan Rami. The theatrical DVD contains the original ending (as an extra), theatrical trailer, exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette titled "The Men Behind the Army" that is narrated by Bruce Campbell, and talent bios.
The commentary on the Director's cut DVD was enjoyable but not terrific. My favorite commentary still remains the Evil Dead 2
DVD/LD, followed by The Evil Dead
with Bruce Campbell, but the Army of Darkness
commentary was still a good listen. It's not a commentary that I'll be listening to multiple times like I do with the other two films, however. For the first 20-30 minutes of the film the commentary consisted of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi alone. After which time Ivan Raimi, Sam's brother, joined in. They did point out most of the new scenes throughout the film, but as I said earlier it's not too hard to tell on your own. They also pointed out a lot of the extras who were friends or family; we even get a peak at Bruce's dad being killed by a deadite. Throughout the commentary it seemed liked Bruce was doing the majority of the talking, but I think everyone prefers that anyway. Of course, they goofed on each other a bit but not nearly as much as on the Evil Dead 2
DVD/LD commentary. I always enjoy when they discuss and point out certain scenes where Sam tortures Bruce (usually both physically and mentally) during the filming of a certain scene. You can expect them to point out a number of these torture scenes, as is normal throughout all the Evil Dead
commentaries. The commentary contains very few gaps of silence and it is enjoyable, I just didn't get as many laughs out of it as I had hoped.
My favorite supplement was the featurette "The Men Behind The Army" on the Theatrical cut DVD. This featurette was produced by William Lustig and is narrated by Bruce Campbell. It goes over KNB studios, the people responsible for creating the Army of Darkness. We see some of the tricks they used to animated the army, the process they went through to create the army, and the process of creating and using the winged deadite. There are numerous interviews with the effects guys from KNB studios. They share their experiences with working on AOD and how they love goofing around with Raimi and Campbell. There's some cool behind-the-scenes footage in this documentary too.
There are four "never before seen" deleted scenes included on the Director's cut DVD. However, I have seen at least one of these scenes before so it's not really "never before seen". What's cool about these four deleted scenes is you can listen to commentary by Bruce and Sam on each specific one. It's nice to hear their thoughts about each scene and why they chose for it to not be in the film. Here is the list of deleted scenes:
1. Original opening
- shot of Bruce's eyes only. Bruce verbally retells what has happened to him (Ash). Includes flashbacks just like the current theatrical cut. I prefer the theatrical version myself. I like seeing Ash being dragged off to his death as a "slave".
2. Ash confronts Arthur
when first landing into mid-evil times. Ash whoops Arthur's ass but is then overpowered by the guards. This scene was on either the Japanese laserdisc of Sci-Fi showing of Army of Darkness, so I don't really consider it to be "never before seen footage" like the package claims.
3. Original windmill scene
- contains a few scenes that I haven't seen before but most of it has been added back into the Director's cut.
4. Ash recruits Henry the Red
to help fight the deadites.
Included on the Director's cut DVD is "Creature Concept Drawings". These are numerous conceptual drawings from the KNB group on the deadites. A lot of the drawings look pretty cool. It's a shame they didn't implement some of them in the movie.
The way they did the storyboards on the Director's cut DVD is unique and I don't think I've seen it used like this before. During the movie you can just turn on CAPTIONS (or through the DVD Menu) and whenever a storyboard is available for a particular scene it will appear on the lower left corner of your television screen. The storyboards were moderately interesting but I generally get bored by storyboards fairly quick.
Last but not least is an insert with a note by Bruce Campbell. It's small but pretty cool. Let's face it - Bruce rocks. I'll let you guys discover this one on your own.
Most people are going to be buying this for the Director's cut so it's really a shame that the transfer isn't too hot and that there isn't a Dolby Digital 5.1 track on the DC. I can certainly understand the non-theatrical footage being less quality than theatrical footage, but there is no excuse for the theatrical footage on the Director's cut DVD to be lower quality than the theatrical footage on the theatrical cut DVD. I'll try to find out from Anchor Bay why there was no 5.1 track produced for the DC. Despite the problems, however, this set is a must own for any Bruce Campbell and/or Evil Dead
fan. You're not going to see such a definitive set for Army of Darkness
for a long time to come, if ever. Plus the extras alone are worth the cost of the set in my opinion. There were only 30,000 sets produced for this limited edition, so hurry and get yours today.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A
Supplements - A
Movie - B+
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B
Supplements - A
- Running time - Theatrical version - 1 hour 21 minutes
- Running time - Director's Cut - 1 hour 36 minutes
- Theatrical version - Rated R | Director's Cut - Unrated
- 2 Discs
- 23 chapter stops (Theatrical cut) | 23 chapter stops (Director's cut)
- English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround (Theatrical) | Dolby Digital 2.0 (Director's cut)
- Original Ending
- Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Featurette "The Men Behind The Army" Narrated by Bruce Campbell
- Talent Bios
- 15 minutes of additional footage
- Audio Commentary with Director Sam Raimi, Star Bruce Campbell and Co-Writer Ivan Raimi
- 4 Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes
- Director's Storyboards